The WGA today filed its opposition to the Big 3 talent agency’s motion to temporarily stay the discovering of certain documents sought by the guild, telling a federal judge that such a stay would “seriously prejudice the guilds’ ability to defend and prosecute this case.”
The two sides have been locked in a contentious legal battle over packaging fees and agency affiliations with related production entities for the last year, with each accusing the other of violating antitrust laws.
Earlier this month, WME, CAA and UTA asked US District Court Judge Andre Birotte Jr. to postpone the guild’s discovery efforts, saying there is a “clear possibility” the guild’s counterclaims against them will be dismissed. On January 6, the judge denied the WGA’s motion to dismiss the antitrust lawsuits filed against it by the three agencies, but he has yet to rule on the agencies’ motion to dismiss the guild’s counterclaims against them. Oral arguments on that motion were held on January 24.
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The guild, however, told the judge today that “the agencies are not likely to prevail on their motion to dismiss,” and that “even if this Court were to focus its analysis solely on the likely success of the agencies’ motion to dismiss, the stay should be denied.” And even if the Court were to dismiss some of its counterclaims against the agencies, the guild told the judge, “it is likely that others would remain in the case.”
There are 16 document request at issue, the agencies said in their motion to stay discovery, that concern the guild’s counterclaims “that might well be dismissed in the near future. For example, counterclaimants’ requests for every interagency communication dating back to 1999, and requests seeking virtually anything and everything relating to the Agencies’ dealings with the Association of Talent Agents relate exclusively to their price-fixing and group boycott counterclaims.”
One year ago, the WGA ordered all its members to fire their agents who refused to sign its agency code of conduct, which banned packaging fees. The WGA and the ATA last met June 7, with the guild claiming that the big agencies have refused to bargain for a new franchise agreement ever since.
The WGA East and West assert two state claims and two federal antitrust claims based on allegations of “unlawful price-fixing and group boycotts,” and four federal claims under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act. Aside from those federal claims, the guild asserts state law claims that it says “are directly related to the agencies’ claims and the guilds’ defenses to those claims, so that they should be adjudicated in the same case for reasons of efficiency and to avoid any inconsistent determinations.”
“This Court has already dedicated substantial attention to those claims: a common law claim for violation of fiduciary duty, constructive fraud under California Civil Code §1573, and unfair and unlawful business practices in violation of the Unfair Competition Law,” the WGA said in its opposition. “The agencies do not dispute that, if any of these counterclaims survive, they will be required to respond to the 16 document requests at issue. For the reasons discussed, the agencies’ motion for a stay of discovery should be denied.”
The WGA says that discovery must proceed because of pending deadlines. “While the Guilds were willing to defer the agencies’ obligation to respond to these 16 requests for over two months, the Guilds cannot agree to any further delays in light of impending case deadlines,” the WGA told the judge today. “Specifically, the parties must exchange expert disclosures on September 11, 2020, complete all non-expert discovery by October 1, 2020, file dispositive motions no later than November 6, 2020, and prepare for trial scheduled in March 2021. Accordingly, the Guilds have just over five months to complete all non-expert discovery (including depositions).
Even if those deadlines were postponed, any further delay in the agencies’ discovery obligations will seriously prejudice the Guilds’ ability to defend and prosecute this case.”
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